Book Review: ‘Christmas Miracle on Christmas Day’ by R.M. Gauthier

This short book is a very fitting end to Gauthier’s ‘Christmas Miracle’ romantic novella series.

It is an enjoyable and heartwarming story that draws together the loose threads of the story of Jack and Charlotte, although not without Jack still managing to endanger their relationship even as everything appears to be pointing toward a happy future together. 

In keeping with the rest of the series, the overall tone is lighthearted and positive.

It is easily read in under an hour, so it fits well into the reading schedule of busy people. 

Book Review: ‘Not Your Abuelita’s Folktales’ by Maria J Estrada

This book contains four unique young adult short stories that are full of the colours and textures of Southwestern America.  

These are very entertaining and interesting stories, populated by a variety of diverse characters who all face various challenges common to youth, from issues of cultural acceptance to boys manipulating girls to get what they want. The challenges faced by the characters are often complicated by differences of culture or understanding that set them apart from those around them. 

All four stories have quite thought-provoking elements that pique the reader’s curiosity and invite them to engage in the story at a deeper level. By making the reader intimately familiar with each main characters’ thoughts and responses, the author cleverly immerses the reader in each story and leads them to feel as though they are watching over the characters’ shoulders as a silent eyewitness to the events that unfold. 

Magical realism and paranormal elements create additional layers of mystery and intrigue within each narrative. Because some of the protagonists are not human, the stories are highly original and their outcomes are not predictable. 

This is a most enjoyable and diverting book with a fresh perspective on YA literature. 

Book Review: ‘Wild Rose’ by Sherrie Hansen

‘Wild Rose’ continues the story of Pastor Ian MacCraig and the community of St Conan’s in Lochawe, Scotland, that began with Thistle Down. 

This is a lighthearted, often humorous and sometimes very poignant story of an unlikely meeting that unleashes an unpredictable series of events full of twists and turns.

While it is a romantic story, it’s also a story of human nature in which judgement and forgiveness feature prominently. It challenges the reader to think about their own perceptions of others, especially those who stand out from the crowd in one way or another.

There is some subtle adult content, so it’s not a book for young readers. That being said, that content is written with sensitivity, and is unlikely to offend adult readers.

‘Wild Rose’ is a most enjoyable read, and has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Book Review: ‘Gates of Golorath’ by R. M. Garino

‘Gates of Golorath’ is book 1 of the ‘Chaos of Souls’ fantasy series by R.M. Garino. It is set in a world somewhere between earth and the realms of heaven and hell, populated by a variety of angelic races – fallen and otherwise – and various other races and monsters.

For the initiates at the Gates of Golorath, there is much to be learned and much to be gained— but there is also much that might be lost if they do not successfully overcome the challenges with which they are presented. In that sense, this is an epic coming of age story, but it is also one of complex relationships fraught with obstacles and difficulties that must be met and endured if friendships and romantic attachments are to survive. 

The characters are varied in terms of heritage, rank and personality, giving the reader a good sense of the social structures of the civilisation in which they live. The main characters, Arielle and Angus, are engaging and likeable, and although I did not always like the things they do, I did become quite invested in their story and the outcomes that awaited them.

This is a gradually-but-steadliy developed and very detailed story that will appeal more to dedicated fans of military fantasy adventure than to those who prefer sword and sorcery or pure magical fantasy, but it is an interesting and enjoyable story.

I enjoyed the action scenes and the banter between different characters, but what I appreciated most was the imagery and energy of the writing. While the world building and orientation at the beginning of the book might be a little slow in terms of story development, it is rich with powerful images and expressive writing that I found to be very appealing. 

‘Gates of Golorath’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here or visit the author’s website.

Book Review: ‘July Fireworks Sky: A Cat Collier Mystery’ by Carol Ann Kauffman

In this seventh novella in Carol Ann Kauffman’s Cat Collier Mysteries series, life takes some surprising turns for Cat, Carter, and their families and friends.

Rather than investigating a particular case, Cat is confronted by questions and dilemmas of her own that she must solve. 

This instalment of the story keeps the reader engaged with some great heart-in-the-throat and “oh no!” moments, and keeps them guessing as to how Cat will resolve her issues and what she will do next. 

Like the others in the series, this book is written with warmth and familiarity, and demonstrates the author’s flair for great storytelling. 

‘July Fireworks Sky’ has received a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Azalea Wang Mysteries’ Books 1-3 by Lucy Ai

Amateur detective stories are abundant, and readers are generally spoiled for choice. While readers will always choose books that appeal to them for their own reasons, it’s always exciting to find a series that not only presents a succession of very interesting mystery stories, but also addresses bigger ideas such as prejudice, jealousy and the assumptions people make about one another.  

Azalea Wang Mysteries is one such series, and is well worth reading for more than just well-developed mystery stories that will keep you guessing right to the end. 

These stories are set largely in and around the senior citizens community of Evening Glory. Azalea Wang is, like many of the residents, of Chinese heritage, and the Chinese culture adds a refreshing and interesting perspective in these mystery stories. The stories draw on particular Chinese cultural elements in such a way that they become part of the story and become more familiar to non-Chinese readers, providing a new sense of familiarity and understanding that builds both knowledge and acceptance.

The stories very subtly address not only the assumptions non-Chinese people make, but also the biases that different groups of Chinese people hold about one another. Because those stereotypes are challenged, the characters and the reader begin to see the people in these stories as individuals, each with a story and a past and reasons why they behave the way they do, rather than simply as a member of one group or another. This adds a positive tone to the stories that is actually very hard to resist, drawing the reader in and making them feel as though they too are part of the community. 

The three mysteries contained in this book are varied and unique, while Azalea’s own story continues throughout. The three cases are well crafted and there are some great surprises and twists along the way, making the stories unpredictable and entertaining.

Azalea is a delightful character. Kind, thoughtful, intelligent and lively, the reader gets to know her as a friend and a mother as well as an amateur sleuth. The people with whom she shares her life are a diverse group, so the cast of characters and suspects is realistic and relatable. 

There is a little bit of not-really-for-younger-readers content in one of the stories, but it is not graphic or explicit.

A most captivating and enjoyable mystery story collection, the Azalea Wang Mysteries collection has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Bitter Prophecy’ by S. Tilghman Hawthorne

‘Bitter Prophecy’ is a short story full of mystery and adventure. It explores themes of good and evil, and of the ways in which temptation and obligation influence a person’s actions.

The story is well written, with an easy flow that makes it a very comfortable read. There are some really good moments of tension, and a couple of great twists that keep the reader engaged right to the end. 

It’s a very enjoyable short read that can be finished in about half an hour, so it fits well into a lunch break or at the end of a busy day. 

‘Bitter Prophecy’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.